CPSC Lacks Data To Police Imports

Although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), under its new leadership, is working to ensure imports coming into this country are safe for American consumers, the process is proving difficult. The CPSC is the agency charged with making sure <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/product_liability">consumer products are safe for human health and use.

According to the Associated Press (AP), even though import numbers have increased, the agency cannot access necessary Custom’s data needed to help it in the prevention of dangerous goods crossing into U.S. borders, citing a Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report. The GAO is Congress’ investigative arm.

In a 2002 agreement between Customs and Border Protection and the CPSC, the agency requested access to “manifest data,” said the AP, which, it noted, details cargo entering the U.S. before the products enter this country. Because Customs and Border Protection did not find the information specific to the CPSC’s needs, the information has not been provided, said the AP, which added that the access issue remains open today. The GAO report is mandating both entities to resolve the open item.

“That advanced notice, combined with other data that they have, would help them better identify risks before the products enter the country,” said Philip Curtin, a senior analyst at the GAO, quoted the AP. While the information is not considered complete, it is, said investigators, better than nothing, reported the AP. Of note, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does receive advance information from Customs, said the AP. Customs enforces regulations for approximately 45 federal agencies, added the AP.

The commission has come under pressure recently over the increasing number of recalled lead-tainted products, many from China. From 1998 to 2007, the value of consumer products imported into the United States about doubled, according to the investigators. Products from China nearly quadrupled over that time, making up about 42 percent of all imported consumer goods. Samples the CPSC collected at ports of entry have dropped, said the AP: 1,348 samples collected in 1999, versus 616 in 2006, 748 in 2007, and 1,170 in 2008.

The CPSC is planning to open an office in Beijing, in part, to ensure exports coming into the U.S. from China are safe and follows an unprecedented number of recalls that have involved consumer products, children’s toys, pet food, fish, dairy products, and toothpaste, to name just some, noted HeraldTribune.com previously. Compounding the issue, in recent months toxic Chinese drywall has been causing illness and raising alarm with residents nationwide.

Prior to agency chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum’s appointment, the agency and its former acting commissioner, Nancy Nord, were taken to task for the Commission’s slow response to a variety of consumer issues, including the growing Chinese drywall problem. For months, homeowners nationwide have been plagued with homes emitting a “rotten eggs” odor that has been linked to corroding metals, and sinus and respiratory problems. Many residents have had to vacate their homes and some builders are scrambling to gut homes and replace the drywall.

Sadly, problematic Chinese imports made headlines well before the nationwide toxic Chinese drywall debacle. For instance, as far back as March 2007, scores of pet deaths and illnesses across North America were linked to a toxic ingredient that was manufactured in China, bringing attention to an issue that soon involved toxins in a wide variety of products, foods, and medications, noted HeraldTribune.com.

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